Holding Down the Fort

I can’t not push boundaries. This is something I’ve come to terms with over the last several years. The only time I’m unhappy is when I stop learning, assessing, solving problems, and creating new things. This is the momentum behind my life.

Not everyone works this way. For some people, it’s far more important to establish toeholds and really dig in. To erect century-spanning structures, rather than propping up tents that will be pulled down and packed up the next day. To plant crops rather than hunting and gathering.

A good friend once asked me why we should bother to explore space. My answer, predictably, was why shouldn’t we? Or more to the point: how can we not? I can’t imagine a world where boundaries aren’t being pushed. She couldn’t imagine a reason for pushing them without being forced to do so.

We all have different needs, different motivations that, if pursued, allow us to get the most out of life. For some, this means hurling ourselves at any horizon we can find. For others, it means holding down the fort.

Both types of people are necessary, and we’re all, in many ways, dependent on each other. Without horizon-pursuers, nothing would ever change, no new solutions would arise to longstanding problems, and we would stagnate as a species. Without the staunch defenders of the status quo, we’d lack a solid foundation for civilization and wouldn’t be as capable of bouncing back from the inevitable dead-ends and bad choices we collectively and individually make.

It can be frustrating, looking across the fence and seeing a group of people acting in direct opposition to your perception of how the world should work. But without them, you wouldn’t be as capable of doing what you love to do.

Don’t allow others to push their ideas on you: that would be denying yourself the opportunity to be happy. But don’t stand in the way of other people’s happiness, either. Not everyone is built to explore space, and not everyone is satisfied ensuring the trains run on time while the astronauts are gone. It’s only by embracing these needs, and becoming damn good at fulfilling them, regardless of what they may be, that we’re capable of achieving our full potential.

Update: April 12, 2017

I’ve been exploring this idea a whole lot of late, in part because of the increased and increasing political tensions in the United States. It’s difficult getting people to recognize that they need those who are on the opposite site of the social spectrum, because without them, we’d be very flat, and far more frail. We’d lack balance. We need those who conserve and those who progress. We’re at our best when these concepts compete, but those who hold them still respect the contributions of those from the opposite side of the aisle.

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